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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Use Technology for Social Development

Nandan Nilekani
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Nandan Nilekani
I have rubbed my shoulders with two or three companies in the past two decades of my career. While one has been that of co-founding and running Infosys, the other has centered on bringing about improvements in systems of governance, working on developmental issues like roads, healthcare, and essential services, and so on.

In the initial years of my tryst with community development and social change, I thought that technology did not have any role in it. One of the reasons for this was the fact that I did not want to be perceived as yet another geek who thought that technology was the panacea for all problems of the world.

Yet, after trying to address the issue of social development for 15 years, I came to realise, reluctantly, that technology can, and actually does, play a great enabling role in the process. This is true especially of developing countries like ours, where solutions to existing problems need to be implemented on a very large scale.

But, let me first underline that any solution in a country like India must be scalable, given the large number of people it must reach; it must be cost-effective, since a large number of people are not economically well off; it must also be possible to deploy the solution in a short time; and above all, the quality of the solution must be good.

All these aspects are relevant to our work in technology. This strengthens the call for technology's role in social development. Moreover, as you will see in the examples that follow, it has already happened.

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